BAFF 2018: Scandanavian Shorts

Looking through the schedule for this year’s Buried Alive Film Festival 2018, I was struck by the fact that there was a solid handful of shorts from Scandinavia. There’s the Finnish Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre, the Dutch Netflix and Chill, and the Norweigian Rosalina. So, I watched all of them in one afternoon, looking for a pattern or a connection.

I didn’t find much of one, aside from the fact that all three were brilliantly shot, with each short having well-done cinematography which uniquely defines each visually. They were also uniformly entertaining and well worth seeking out as soon as you’re able.

Writer/director Ilja Rautsi’s Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre is a gloriously askew look at the fragile egos of men, their expectations, and a refreshingly direct way of dealing with their bullshit opinions and views (I am 100% aware of the irony in my stating this at the outset of a review).

The film’s lead, Anna Paavilainen, plays Essi, on a return trip from visiting her partner Julius’ (Leo Honkonen) parents, when there’s a car wreck. The pair are rescued by a house full of dude bros, all too ready to help them out — and explain exactly why. There are children, and exactly one other woman, the pregnant Roosa, who sums up the short in one very succinct and quietly terrifying statement with her line halfway through the film:

“But if you don’t want to be punished, you must never, ever question their ego.”

Essi is exactly the sort of strong woman one always hears about in films, but rarely sees: she speaks her mind, she’s determined, and she’s not going to let these fuckers tell her what’s what, because she knows the deal. Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre plays out like a deranged cartoon, replete with Dutch angles, surreal lighting, and no end of dialogue set to make your head spin.

The short’s not subtle, but the title of Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre should’ve tipped you off to that from the get-go. And why should it be? This is a film which directly and violently deals with some ridiculous statements which would be better off unsaid by the myriad mouthbreathing dickcheeses who populate the house in the woods where Essi finds herself. The bloody vengeance she wreaks is fist-pumping in all its splattery glory.

Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre screens on Thursday, November 15, at 7:00pm as part of Shorts Program 1: For the love of the undertaker.

Michael Middelkoop’s Netflix & Chill represents the platonic ideal of a horror short: no dialogue, direct and to-the-point storyline, blood, and just a little bit of sex. Kind of.

There’s dialogue from the films being watched by the young guy and girl in Middelkoop’s short film, but the majority of the plot is conveyed by looks, physicality, and two bits of onscreen text. That’s it. Everything is dependent on the viewer paying attention, and there’s no drawn-out exposition to insult their intelligence. It’s pretty straightforward, and not a little funny, and despite its Netherlands origins, it’s all in English.

The little nods here and there to various horror icons makes paying attention that much more rewarding, as well. To say more would spoil it, but Netflix & Chill is damned fun.

Netflix & Chill screens on Friday, November 16 at 6:00pm as part of Shorts Program 2: Bury me with my favorite films.

Rosalina, directed by Fredrik S. Hanna, depicts Vinny, a crime boss, on the day of his 50th birthday. His longtime friend and former number one, Hjalmar, shows up in the wake of the previous night’s party to bring his buddy a bottle to celebrate the occasion. “But in wake of his 50th birthday party his illusions of true love crumble, paving way for all his long hidden insecurities and filling his heart with rage and fury,” so says the plot summary, and oh how terribly accurate that statement is.

Set in a room with a door to which only Vinny (played by Kristoffer Joner, one of the trappers from The Revenant) has the ability to open, Hjalmar (played by Oliver Hohlbrugger, who is a dead fucking ringer for Tyler Labine) listens to his friend rant and rave about the past and love and how Hjalmar got out. Though you’re tipped off within the film’s opening to just how unhinged Vinny might be — he pours vodka into his hand and uses it to slick back his hair, which is one hell of an indelible image — it’s finding out just exactly what’s wrong that makes Rosalina such a fascinating watch.

The short is also incredibly tense, with special credit being due to the sound work of Jan Erik Hagevold. There’s a part early on, where Vinny laughs, and it’s one of the most chilling things I’ve ever heard. The conversations are, obviously, a little easier to understand thanks to the subtitles, but even so, the dialogue comes across crisply, even when it’s so low as to almost be ASMR.

The plot’s not so much important as the feeling, and the fear, sadness, and loss which manage to interweave their way through Rosalina’s 20-minute runtime is impressive, especially given that there are essentially only two characters, in one room. Definitely make an effort to see this when Rosalina screens Saturday November 17, at 2:00pm as part of Shorts Program 3: It’s never too early to start digging graves.

Information and tickets can be found at the BAFF website.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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